The Venture Acceleration Program (VAP) is well known in the local startup community in British Columbia. An initiative of the BC Innovation Council (BCIC), the VAP is designed to guide and coach early-stage technology companies to grow their technology ventures which, as a result, drives economic development and creates jobs in BC. As a partner of BCIC, Wavefront has been delivering VAP for over three years in Vancouver and versions of it across the country.
Prior to the Venture Acceleration Program, BCIC had a program called [email protected]. Wavefront’s first cohort for the program had eight companies, however it did not have a fixed structure that held the startups accountable for their goals. Eventually, BCIC wanted to standardize the content that the accelerators were delivering to the startup companies, creating the BC Acceleration Network (BCAN). In order to have a unified program, Accelerate Okanagan and VIATEC worked with BCIC to create the basic principles for the VAP.
Principles of the Venture Acceleration Program
The purpose of creating key principles is to have a common language for all accelerators, Executives in Residence and the companies themselves to understand. The principles are essentially a curriculum that all of the accelerators in BCAN will follow. The key components for VAP are the following:
Market Validation Training (MVT) – The Market Validation Training is typically offered as a three day course that runs over a 90-day period, giving companies a chance to apply what they are learning and receive help from the Executive-in-Residence and guest mentors between sessions. Companies listen to MVT trainer, David Christie, who is a Wavefront EIR, lecture on topics such as Market Type, Innovation Source, and Value Propositions. In between lectures, companies are asked to work on exercises with their EIR to ensure that they understand the content and concepts being taught as well as challenging their existing business model. Throughout the three days, the companies have the opportunity to practice their pitch amongst their peers, the EIRs and mentors.
Executive-in-Residence (EIR) – Executives-in-residence are people who are trained to work with a startup company and understand the principles of MVT. Wavefront’s EIRs have experience in creating a startup themselves or have held a “C-level” corporate position in a tech company.
EIRs have the opportunity to give back to the community by relaying their experience to the new startups. On average, the company meets with their EIR every week or every other week. This process allows the company to update their EIR on any challenges they are facing and it keeps the company accountable to their goals.
Quarterly Review – The Quarterly Review is a component that is only available for Wavefront’s Vancouver VAP. This exercise helps them practice how to be a public facing company by reporting to a mock board of advisors, which consists of all the EIRs and guests mentors. Past guests include representatives from BCIC, NRC Concierge, and the Discovery Foundation. The meeting is a chance for the companies to report their progress, share their successes, and get help with any obstacles they are facing.
As a national organization, Wavefront delivers the MVT curriculum across the country by partnering with accelerators in different cities. We work with our partners to augment their programs by delivering MVT to startup companies in the area. The program is open to all startups in the community, with the next intake being in the Fall. Currently, Wavefront’s partners include: Centennial College in the Greater Toronto Area and Volta Labs in Halifax.
Benefits of being in VAP
Often technology companies are more focused on the product and forget about whether they have a market. The VAP’s curriculum helps companies think more about market pull instead of just technology push. They also receive ongoing mentorship from the EIRs, who have experience in the industry and are trained in MVT. The MVT curriculum helps them understand how to run a company, getting them to think about potential markets for their product, and the day-to-day activities that need to be done. As part of Wavefront, the companies have access to industry events, complimentary device rentals through Wavefront’s Wireless Zone, boardrooms in downtown Vancouver, and opportunities to connect with Wavefront’s partner network.
Most of the time, startups believe that their product is the deciding factor, however that is not the case. At Wavefront, companies are ranked by the following factors: the team has to be a balance of business and technical experts, and they should already know and have researched their target market. In addition, Wavefront examines the product itself, the feasibility of the business model, and whether we feel the company will benefit from the program.
At any given time, there are approximately 30 companies in VAP. The average amount of time that a company stays in the Venture Acceleration Program is one year, with the minimum requirement being four months. After graduating from VAP, the startups will have an understanding of their target market and a plan on how to sell into that market.
Over the years, there have been numerous companies that have gone through VAP, all of whom have an amazing story to share.
“The most fun companies to watch in the program are the very technical founders who have created these amazing products without determining whether they have a market for it. Once they go through the program, they realize there is so much more to creating a successful company then their merchandise, and their eyes just open up!” – Brad Lowe, VP of National Accelerator Operations
A few examples of our success stories include:
Vandrico Inc. -A Vancouver company who specializes in workplace applications for wearable devices. They provide solutions to industrial organizations that aim at enhancing the productivity and safety of their operations. Recently they have partnered with Deloitte to assume data management of Vandrico’s Wearables Database. After graduating from VAP, Vandrico Inc. is participating in Waverfont’s RevUp program, an intensive course designed for companies that are in rapid growth.
“The Venture Acceleration Program was the fuel we needed to get serious about our business. The training, mentorship and support helped us build a multi-million dollar company fast, creating happy customers and supportive investors in the process.” -Gonzalo Tudela, CEO, Vandrico Inc.
Curatio – It is the world’s first social health prescription. They are committed to using the power of technology to help every patient in the world find the social and disease management support that leads to better outcomes, adherence and well-being. Recently, the Heart and Stroke Foundation led a study to examine Curatio’s application where patients can connect with each other to form support groups.
Hangry – A national VAP company. Hangry helps hungry university students skip the food queue by ordering online through their app. They appeared on CBC’s Dragon’s Den in November and closed a deal with three “dragons”for $120,000.
The next intake for the Vancouver Venture Acceleration Program will be in September, so stay tuned! For more information, visit: https://wavefront.ca/accelerator/venture-acceleration-program/